Imported skin whitening products banned by the national government for containing mercury are being sold in broad daylight in Cebu City in clear defiance of the law.
The Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) and the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition, revealed the “toxic truth” after obtaining five forbidden cosmetics in test buys conducted on July 22 at shops located in Pres. Osmeña Blvd. and Sanciangko Sts., Cebu City.
The Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has so far recalled 93 skin whitening cosmetics for containing excessive levels of mercury and for having no market authorization from the agency.
“We deplore the illegal sale of these mercury-added cosmetics by vendors who bag profits at the expense of their customers’ health,” said environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the PEJC.
“Our local government and police officials should take firm action to put a stop to such unlawful trade and make law breakers accountable,” she insisted.
For his part, Thony Dizon, Project Protect Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, cautioned consumers against patronizing unauthorized cosmetics that are supposed to result in fairer skin complexion.
“Please don’t buy cosmetics that are not duly authorized by the FDA and often with labels that are not understandable as this may spell trouble for you,” he said.
“Repeated applications of mercury-laden cosmetics onto the skin can actually harm your skin as well as your brain and kidneys due to direct and extended exposure,” Dizon warned.
Chemical analysis through a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer showed high concentrations of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, in all the five products in violation of the regulatory limit of one part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.
The Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set had 10,700 ppm of mercury.
The Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening & Anti-Aging Cream had 5,176 ppm of mercury.
The Huayuenong 12-Day Whitening & Speckle Removing Wrecking Set had 4,371 ppm of mercury.
The Miss Beauty Magic Cream had 3,847 ppm of mercury.
The Flower Woman 7-Day Whitening & Spot Day & Night Cream had 3,766 ppm of mercury.
Huayuenong was among the 16 skin whitening products banned by the FDA last week, while the Flower Woman, Sara and Miss Beauty were banned in 2011, and Jiaoli in 2010.
According to a fact sheet prepared by the World Health Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”
“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” the WHO said.
WHO explained that “mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish.”
“Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” the WHO further said.